Congregation Beth David was formed in 1929 by a group of local Jews as an Orthodox Synagogue. Over the years Beth David’s religious practices have been changed first following Conservative concepts and now Beth David’s services are patterned after the Reformed Jewish movement.
The towns in New York and Connecticut within a ten-mile radius of where the Beth David synagogue is located were first settled by Europeans early in the 18th century. German and Dutch settlements are recorded in the New York hamlets of Wassaic, South Amenia and Amenia Union, although the Township of Amenia itself was not formally organized until 1823. The Town of Sharon, Connecticut was part of a group of Litchfield County towns incorporated in 1738. No Jews are recorded as having been among the early settlers of the bi-state New York-New England border region; however, it seems entirely likely that itinerant Jewish merchants, carrying household goods in packs on their backs, circulated through the area soon after the first pioneers braved the hills and forests of the frontier.
The Founding of Beth David
Among the “boarders” and their landlords were many religious Jews. At first, they gathered in private houses to hold religious services. Then, in the late 1920’s, they decided to build a synagogue of their own. A small plot of land on East Main Street in Amenia was donated by Bessie and Harry Rosenson (6). The 12 founding members of the new synagogue were recorded as:
Alfred M. and Freda Dube
Harry and Bessie Rosenson
Philip and Jennie Rothstein
The cornerstone for the building was laid on Sunday, May 14, 1929 at a ceremony that brought together members of the local Jewish community, visiting Rabbis and other Jewish leaders, together with religious and civic leaders from the Amenia area. In all, several hundred people attended. The day was a joyous one, despite threatening weather that fortunately held off long enough for the ceremony to be almost wholly completed before heavy rain fell.
Alfred Dube chaired the cornerstone-laying program. Speakers included Spervisor Joseph McEnroe of Amenia, Reverend S.W. Steele of the Amenia Presbyterian Church, Rabbi Schwartz of Vassar Temple in Poughkeepsie and Paul Belowitz, President of the Hunts Point Hebrew Association. Rabbi Schwartz gave the invocation and congratulated the small Jewish community on the building of their temple. Supervisor McEnroe spoke of his honor at being part of the dedication of the temple. Reverend Dr. Steele expressed his pride in his Jewish neighbors and assured the audience that intolerance did not exist in Amenia Funds for construction of the temple were donated by members of the congregation and also by local residents –including Christians (History of Beth David). At the cornerstone-laying ceremony, a total of $240 was contributed by those in attendance.
Beth David Today
The nearly 75 years that Beth David has operated have seen many changes in the congregation. Membership has waxed and waned over the years, from the founding twelve to the current membership of nearly sixty families and individuals. Many of the original members moved away and thrived in other parts of the country. For instance, one family moved to Washington State and became entrepreneurs and started law firms. Numerous Beth David former members are now all over the United States.
The religious affiliation of the synagogue changed from Orthodox to Conservative to Reform. Beth David is currently unaffiliated with any of the national Jewish religious organizations although it largely follows Reform practices. As the congregation celebrates its anniversary, it looks forward to many coming years of service to the community served by the
little Beth David synagogue.